No Deal Boris

Last time I looked at the Brexit trainwreck, I predicted that May would seek an extension from the EU (which she did) but assumed they would want a concrete commitment to finality, through a referendum (which they didn’t). I ended with the observation

To be clear, “No Deal” doesn’t really mean that. A literal no deal would see Britain reduced to food rationing in a matter of weeks, air travel cancelled immediately and so on. In reality, “No Deal” means a series of emergency deals, cobbled together in circumstances where the EU faces significant but manageable economic costs, while the UK faces catastrophe.

Now May is on the way out, and it appears she will replaced by Boris Johnson, the British politician most hated by the EU. There’s no prospect that he will be able to negotiate a deal, even if he wants to. So, unless he is overridden as May was, a No Deal Brexit is on the cards.

But, contrary to what I wrote above, I think there’s now every prospect of something approaching a literal no deal. Johnson will certainly not be keen to make the kinds of accommodations needed for a manageable No Deal Brexit.

From the EU’s point of view, a few weeks of total chaos, followed by an abject surrender from Johnson, looks a lot more appealing than the same scenario applied to the earnest, if incompetent, Theresa May.

As the not so old English curse (attributed, as is normal in such cases, to ancient Chinese wisdom) has it, “may you live in interesting times”. Johnson is certainly interesting, and is a curse the English have brought on themselves.

33 thoughts on “No Deal Boris

  1. For once, JQ is not on the same page as the estimable Simon Wren-Lewis, a progressive economist at Oxford. He thinks Brexit is now closed off by Parliamentary arithmetic and self-interest. I’d like to believe him, but fear there is just too much unreason in the air. Boris is capable of just ignoring the Commons, defying Tory moderates to join a vote of no confidence, and letting a No Deal Brexit happen by running out the EU’s clock.

  2. Fog in the channel, Europe isolated was newspaper headline some yeas ago. This delusion of empire has prevailed and convinced the British that the brexit circle can be squared. It can not, nor should it.

  3. It seems that Boris is the only viable candidate.

    One way would be for a defection of Tories, parliament to vote that they have no confidence in the govt and a general election.

    I don’t know if the arithmetic can make this possible.

  4. On the entertaining level, re KT2’s web link containing Boris Johnson’s poem about Ankara and sowing wild oats: Johnson’s paternal great grandfather was from Turkey. (search Ali Kemal on wiki)

  5. And yet we keep,confusing this discussion as about the fate of the UK. In the long run, it is about the fate of the EU. The weakness ess of the latter have simply been papered over by the Brexit debacle. The EU experiment ends in war

  6. “A new leader will have the opportunity to do things differently and have the momentum of a new administration,” Johnson said. The rise of populist movements in Europe could make officials in Brussels reconsider, he said. [source, smh today]

    It may well be there is momentum of a new administration in the UK. However, this does not translate to the 28-1 EU countries.

    Since Thursday the elections of the EU Parliament are in progress. They end tomorrow.

    The first exit poll from the Netherlands has the Social Democrats leading in terms of the number of members for the EUP. Their ‘lead candidate’, Frans Timmerman, is also a candidate to become Juncker’s successor. The populists have lost votes relative to 2016.

    In Austria there is a major scandal involving two senior members of the populist party, FPÖ, the junior coalition party in government until a few days ago when the Kanzler Kurz from the senior coalition party declared ‘enough is enough’ – there are new elections in the near future.

    In Germany the populist, AfD, while being supportive of the UK populists and consider the FPÖ as their sister or brother party, do face a few image problems due to their association with their Austrian sisters and brothers, and there are two unresolved donation scandals and, furthermore, the equivalent institution of ASIO is keeping an eye on some members or local branches. Former members are speaking out why they left, etc, etc.
    Against the populists, M. Weber from the CSU should pull a few votes away from the populist since he is also a candidate to succeed Juncker. The Greens have been doing well in the recent past.

    Le Penn in France has some legal problems – diverting EU funds to fund her party.

    Hungary is ruled by a populist – currently in the EU’s sin bin.

    Italy has a history of rather swift political mood changes – lets see what happens.

    There are reports the alleged alliance of the populists, “International Nationals” is not credible because they don’t agree on just about anything.

    The newly formed Brexit Party with Nigel Farage (former UKIP) is likely to be the winner in the UK – but only until 31 October 2019 at the latest. (Macron is cross with Merkel because the latter was pushing for giving Mrs May an extension until 31 October.)

    A lot has changed since 2016.

  7. As usual, Boris Johnson is utterly clueless. A “no deal” Brexit might be bad for the EU but its good for mainstream EU politicians. A UK utterly ruined by our own right-wing demagogues would present an example that might give voters second thoughts on voting for the far-right. With Le Pen breathing down his neck, it is no surprise Macron is now pushing for the UK to be kicked out of the EU.

  8. The EU experiment ends in war

    You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you? Did you come up with that idea by yourself, or did you have help?

  9. rdb, the web-site you linked to is excellent in several ways. It is a brilliant idea, IMHO, to provide assistance to journalists when interviewing potential nonsense promoters.

    My last information is that BMW has decided to keep the UK production facility. Any other news?

  10. Johnson will certainly not be keen to make the kinds of accommodations needed for a manageable No Deal Brexit.

    I think you underestimate Boris’ “flexibility”. As a man of infinite chutzpah who believes in nothing except Boris Johnson he will have no difficulty at all in doing whatever it takes. Most likely a quick referendum, with the only choice no-deal or revocation of Article 50. Whichever one gets up he can then say of the outcome “not my fault – the people have spoken”.

    But its true that ALL the parties in the UK parliament seem to have utterly lost their mind. Most democracies seem to have such very occasional outbreaks of collective delusion.

  11. DD, I agree he has the chutzpah for a complete backflip. What he lacks is the patience and competence needed to negotiate a survivable “No Deal” deal.

  12. Sorry for being a newbie here, but can someone explain the core issue?

    It seems the customs union is the key issue. The UK wants to be in it, but doesn’t want to be in it. Or is it the other way round?

    Assuming the EU takes the free movement of people requirement out and the UK agrees not to be involved in the EU elections or any of the policy setting then it just comes down to the custom union.

    But what are the options for the customs union? No one seems to be able to explain this other than your in or your out.

  13. “The UK wants to be in it, but doesn’t want to be in it. Or is it the other way round?”

    The Hard Brexiters don’t want to be in the customs union because to be in it you have to sign up to freedom of movement and all the other EU rules they are so keen to escape. At the time of the referendum they claimed the UK would be able to have all the advantages of the customs union without the strings. They claimed the German car industry would never allow otherwise. Its only since all that was proven to be nonsense that Brexiters have rewritten their beliefs to claim that No Deal is what they wanted all along.

    The Remainers say that, at the very least, the UK should remain in the customs union. Frictionless trade with the continent is not merely an option: it has come to be a keystone of how commerce between the EU and UK works. And, in addition, the Good Friday agreement commits us to having no border between Northern Ireland and Eire.

  14. Assuming the EU takes the free movement of people requirement out …

    Free movement of people isn’t a requirement of the customs union, it’s a requirement of the single market.

    But what are the options for the customs union? No one seems to be able to explain this other than your in or your out.

    Well, what more explanation do you need? Those are the options in relation to a customs union: either you’re in it or you’re out of it.

  15. What is being illustrated by the Brexit imbroglio is that it is impossible to secede from global neoliberalism. It is impossible to secede from the totalizing system of Absolute Capitalism. The fact that the Tories are attempting, and failing, to secede from global neoliberalism in order to implement a national or parochial neoliberalism does not refute this thesis. The Greek Left could not secede from neoliberalism (absolute capitalism) either.

    John Bellamy Foster in his article, “Absolute Capitalism” – Monthly Review (May 01, 2019) notes the following.

    “In Foucault’s interpretation, neoliberalism is as remote from laissez-faire as it is from Keynesianism. As Hayek argued in ‘The Constitution of Liberty’, the neoliberal state is an interventionist, not laissez-faire, state precisely because it becomes the embodiment of a rule-governed, market-dictated economic order and is concerned with perpetuating and extending that order to the whole of society. …
    The hegemonic class-property relations are encoded in the juridical structure and the state itself is reduced to these formal economic codes embodied in the legal system. What Hayek means by “the rule of law,” according to Foucault, is the imposition of “formal economic legislation” that “is quite simply the opposite of a plan. It is the opposite of planning.” The object is to establish “rules of the game” that prevent any deviation from the logic of commodity exchange or capitalist competition, while extending these relations further into society, with the state as the ultimate guarantor of market supremacy.” – John Bellamy Foster.

    To restate, what is diagnosed here is that the “formal economic codes embodied in the legal system” establish “the rules of the game” and that the imposition of these rules is “the opposite of a plan”. This is why we can have no economic plan to save the world (meaning to save the benign Holocene climate, earth system and ecology) under the current system. A plan, classically, is a model for action in the real world. A model requires the direct linking of the real to the formal by real measures; these then being combined in by the acts of scaling and simplifying implicit in model making. A functional model for use in planning implies homomorphic connections (symmetries) between the model and the real world. The plan, among other things, must be defined, derived and modifiable via objective and scientific measurements undertaken in the real world. A model without these homomorphic connections cannot be used to properly manage exogenous real system outcomes as opposed to juggling its “mere” endogenous economic outcomes. The attempt to import real world measuring into the model via the market involves the non-sequitur of using the nominal (money) to measure the real.

    In contradistinction to an empirically derived plan, the “formal economic codes embodied in the legal system” are derived from axioms, specifically the axioms establishing private property and money, in specific forms and operations, and then the canonizing of markets of specific types, as the only valid methods for handling the quantities, relations and dynamics of the real world. Nowhere are real measures imported back into the economic system as the basis for effective decision making. Certainly, real measures (tonnes of wheat etc.) are used in the markets in the process of deriving notional money measures but only these notional money measures are used for decision making and for “economic planning” per se which is not, in the final analysis, genuine real world planning with and for real world quantities (those measured by physics, chemistry and biology). The rules of the economic system (conferred inviolable sanctity as prescriptive axioms for private wealth, money relations and markets) have to be maintained at all costs while real world outcomes are regarded as secondary to unimportant. So long as the axiomatic-algorithmic rules system of economics is regarded as being non-negotiable and having greater importance than real world systems then the former cannot be reformed and the latter cannot be saved.

  16. AndyM

    As far as I can make out from what I’ve read and heard, membership of the single market is more important to what happens on the Northern Irish border than membership of the customs union. Hence the Labour Party’s proposal of remaining in the customs union and maintaining ‘close alignment’ with the single market, whatever that means, is not a clearly adequate solution.

  17. @J-D you said “Free movement of people isn’t a requirement of the customs union, it’s a requirement of the single market.”

    I think that’s the source of my lack of understanding. Whats the difference between the customs union and the single market?

    I assume the customs union means free movement of goods with no tariffs. And the single market means all members must apply the same tariffs to good coming from out side the union.

    If that’s all it is then the UK should just join the customs union and leave the single market.

    Again sorry if this is too simplistic.

  18. Ok this economist article helped me:
    https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/10/07/the-difference-between-europes-customs-union-and-single-market

    So the custom union allows for free trade in the union, but a common set of external tariffs. No free movement of people. No regulations requirements.

    The single market allows a country to set its own tariffs, but requires freedom of movement of people and setting of common regulations.

    Do I have that right? If so I think I see the issue now. UK wants to set its own trade agreements and not allow freedom of movement or common regulations?

  19. Ok the Economist article raises more questions:

    Why does the single market require freedom of movement of people? They gloss over this.

    I get why the single market needs hamonised regulations from their Vacuum example, but then why doesnt the customs union require the same regulations? In other words if I wanted to get cheap and nasty vacuums into Europe could I just import them via Turkey (who’s in the customs union, but not the single market)?

    Still confused.

  20. DuncanE,

    “The European Single Market, Internal Market or Common Market is a single market which seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour – the “four freedoms” – within the European Union (EU).” [source: Wiki but can be verified on just about any EU official web-site. The latter provides also the evolution of the EU.

    The UK is currently in the EU.

    The EU contains a custom union in the sense of having zero tariffs within the member countries (‘free movements of goods’) and common tariffs against third party countries. Note the plural in the second part of the sentence.

    So, as soon as one goes beyond a two-dimensional representation of a custom union, it gets mighty difficult because the various custom unions can’t be mutually contradictory. (If you are from the UK, perhaps you write to Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson and ask them for their explanation.)

    To illustrate the problem, suppose the EU signs a trade agreement with Australia and the UK wants to sign a trade agreement (call it custom union) with the EU and a separate one with Australia, then the UK’s agreement with Australia must not contradict the EU’s agreement with Australia. What I am writing here in one paragraph is clearly only an outline of the logic of the problem. In practice there are volumes of paper involved and a lot of time to negotiate the details.

    The foregoing is a simplification but not a mere opinion.

    As for my opinion, BREXIT as apparently conceived by all those who said it will be easy to leave the EU had two theoretical options (conditions under which their statements make sense when one thinks about it).

    1. Succeed in splitting up the EU (if successful then the UK can negotiate trade agreements with each of the remaining 27 countries, which could mean they bother only about 2 or 3.
    This option was off the table very quickly by the 27 countries showing a united front and they have kept it up.
    The EU election in the UK resulted in the sum of the remain parties to have a bigger total weight then the Brexit parties [Source, the Guardian of today]

    2. The ‘crash out’ and revert to the World Trade Organisation rules. This is possible but does not address the Irish border problem.

    The Theresa May-EU deal is or was the biggest cherry the EU could offer the UK and giving 2 years for negotiations for a longer term agreement. (I seem to recall in the second or was it the third ‘meaningful vote’ Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogg voted for the biggest cherry.)

    I hope not to have caused more confusion.

  21. In the EU election and at 31% and growing, the U.K. Brexit party seem to be storming ahead. Labour are 14% with the Conservatives limping along at 8.7%.

    Farage could see this as a mandate.

  22. DuncanE

    In the referendum, voters had exactly two options: ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’. They weren’t asked to vote on their reasons for voting the way they did. They also weren’t asked to vote on either the single market or the customs union. However, Theresa May decided that the proper way to reflect the referendum result was for the UK to leave both the single market and the customs union. (This was not discussed with Parliament, the Conservative Party, or the Cabinet before she made the announcement.)

    When the Good Friday Agreement was drawn up, it was done in a context where both the UK and the Republic of Ireland were members of the EU and I imagine nobody thought about what might happen if that ceased to be the case. The EU is (quite rightly) standing up for the Republic of Ireland as one of its members and insisting that the UK guarantee arrangements that will ensure obligations under the Good Friday Agreement are met. It seems to be agreed that remaining in the single market would solve that problem, but in the absence of agreement on that the EU negotiated arrangements with the UK which it considered an adequate alternative. Some people in the UK find those arrangements unsatisfactory, and the House of Commons has refused to endorse the proposal for legislation that includes them, but the EU remains unconvinced that suitable alternatives have been found.

    (Just as people voted ‘Leave’ for different reasons, and people also voted ‘Remain’ for different reasons, so members of the House of Commons voted against endorsing the package negotiated with the EU for different reasons: the problem is, whatever their reasons, members voting against the package have the majority in the House, and they don’t have to agree on reasons in order to block the package.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s